George Bell


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Australian painter, draughtsman, teacher, and critic. In 1903–20 he lived in Europe (he was an Official War Artist in the First World War), then returned to his native Melbourne. He started teaching privately in 1922 and in 1925 founded the Bell–Shore School with Arnold Shore (1897–1963). By this time Bell was a well-established painter working in an uncontroversial Impressionist style, but he was plagued by doubts about the validity of his work, thinking that he should be trying to extract the ‘underlying truth’ from visual appearances rather than merely recording them. He came under the influence of the writings of Roger Fry and Clive Bell and in 1934–5 he made another visit to Europe, this time specifically to study modern painting (he was the first Australian artist to do so): Braque, Cézanne (above all), Matisse, and Picasso were among the artists to whom he paid the most attention. He was less distinguished as a painter than as a teacher—a seminal figure in the development of modernism in Australia: Robert Hughes (1970) calls him ‘arguably the most influential single teacher who ever worked in Australia’. Russell Drysdale was his most famous pupil. Bell was art critic for the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial, 1923–48.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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